The New Rules of Re-Gifting

December 28, 2012    |    By +
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The holidays are over and you have opened all of your gifts for better or worse. Now you have to decide what to do with the ones that just didn’t hit the mark this time around. We tend to feel guilty about throwing these gifts out, or selling them for money. But, what other option is there?

Re-gifting used to be taboo. It was the sort of thing you would never do, or at least never admit to doing. Due to the “great recession” we have become increasingly more time crunched and more thoughtful about over-spending. It only makes sense that with these changes in our lives we have also seen a change in our philosophy toward re-gifting. The stigma has lessened and the act of re-gifting has become more commonplace and necessary. Besides, we should feel good about giving things a second life while saving a few dollars. Gift giving is about intention, not how much we spend. With this upswing in the desire to re-gift, we need to lay some ground rules so that no one gets hurt. There are only a handful of rules for re-gifting that shed some much needed light in this previously darkened corner of gift giving once and for all.

Consider these rules:

1. If the gift is from someone who permeates all social circles in your life you cannot re-gift anything that they give you. The only exception is if you clear it with them first using a tactful statement such as, “I like this, but I know someone who will just adore it. Do you mind if I pass it along to them?” OR “Your gift wasn’t exactly my taste, but I know that (insert mutual acquaintance name) would love it. Do you mind if I give it to him/her? I’ll be sure to say it is from you too.”

2. Never give within the same circle of people. That means putting a post-it on the gift immediately upon placing it on your gift shelf so that you don’t forget. If there is any chance that these people may meet and discuss this gift, then don’t give it. But, to re-gift something from your friend in another state to your child’s teacher is fine.

3. Even if you think that their paths will never cross, it’s best to disclose the re-gift to anyone you are very close with. For example, tell your mother when you give her the scarf that you got from your co-worker for the office gift exchange. You can phrase it as, “I knew you would love this as soon as I saw it and had to give it to you.”

4. Have your children decide on a charity to give the unwanted gift to. This rule is great for several reasons: you won’t have to keep something that no one at your house wants and you’ll be teaching your children a valuable lesson at the same time. Give them a few options of charities that they can relate to and let them choose which one will receive the gift. You can bring them with you to drop off the gift too. Toys for Tots and My Stuff Bags Foundation are both great charities for kids that accept gifts if you are giving away toys.

5. If you receive a gag gift, it’s ok to give it back or pass the joke on to another victim. Continue the cycle back and forth until the joke wears out! The more wacky the gift, the longer the joke will continue. It can become a family tradition. Who will get the wall-mountable singing fish this year?

6. If earnestly re-gifting, always give it new life with fresh wrapping paper and a thoughtful card. Since you skipped the gift and cards are so affordable, this is your chance to splurge(and shine)! A thoughtful, hand-written, personalized card makes any gift more special and this case is no exception.

Be sure to closely examine the package for signs that it is a re-gift such as old cards, tags, hand-written inscriptions, remnants of old wrapping paper and tape. Nothing gives a re-gift away like dusty wrapping paper or someone else’s name on the packaging.

7. Don’t just re- gift for the sake of getting rid of something. Carefully pair your re-gift with the receiver’s interests. Re-gifting is only a success if it feels sincere.

8. Re-gifts are the best time to give for the best reason, just because. When you receive something that you know someone else will love, you don’t have to wait until their birthday or another occasion to give it. Give it whenever you’d like. It will be such a pleasant surprise for whoever is receiving it, that it will most likely be loved even if you disclose that it is a re-gift.

Happy regifting!

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Posted in Etiquette, Gift Guides, Trend Alert!    


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Meet the Gurus

Kathryn D.W.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is the senior manager of content at She was formerly the executive editor at Honolulu Magazine, and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping on Oahu. Her career has included staff positions at Country Living Gardener and Power & Motoryacht. Her latest book is "Hawaii's Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!"

Gwen P.
Gwen is the Editorial Curator at In addition to writing blogs, she creates gift guides, curates the site, and produces content for our social media channels. As a freelance writer, she created blogs on fashion, art, travel, health and lifestyle. A talented jewelry designer, she's also a yogi and a hospital volunteer with her therapy dog, Lilo, a Pomeranian.